26 September 2013

on National Civic Service for Palestinian Citizens of Israel

For two months now, I’ve been turning over the issue of National Civic Service in my mind. It’s not a coincidence, as in recent months there’s been a lot going on about this issue, and now that I work in Hirakuna, I’m much closer to this issue, as National Civic Service is one of the issues Hirakuna deals with, although it’s by no means the main area of the Forum’s work.[i]
Usually, I write in a free style and from my own personal perspective, providing my thoughts on issues, rather than giving analysis and a broad reading. Usually I take my own personal experiences, and reflect on the wider socio-political reality. However, with National Civic Service, it’s much more complex, as there are quite too many layers to the issue and several perspectives. So I am taking my time with it.
I’m in the initial stages of writing an article about it. I will make an attempt to raise my voice and present one perspective among many about the issue of National Civic Service for Palestinian citizens of Israel. I’d like to stress from the start that this will be a personal yet political reading of the reality, and in no way will it exhaust the issue, nor will it present all perspectives. This being said, and although not representative in a collective way, it will however represent some of the voices. And since the collective voice is made up of many individual voices, then it follows that this voice has its place in the composition of the collective voice.
National Civic Service is a very complex issue in Israel and cannot be dealt with in any linear mode. It has several layers of complexity interacting and affecting one another.
Hopefully I will complete the article within the next two or three weeks. Please follow up to read it.

[i] Hirakuna’s mission is to enable safe spaces and create volunteerism and leadership opportunities to empower young women and men to take active responsibility and become engaged in their communities and beyond, ultimately becoming active agents for social change. Hirakuna’s main objective is to create a vibrant and resilient civil community with the social, organizational and professional infrastructure to promote reciprocal social responsibility, volunteerism and leadership throughout the Palestinian society in Israel.
Hirakuna’s vision is a flourishing and advanced democratic society based on the values of equality, human dignity and liberty, and maintaining a combination of individual and collective rights; a society that emphasizes mutual solidarity and responsibility; a society where individuals can realize their potential and influence the general good. Website: www.hirakuna.org | Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Hirakuna?fref=ts

24 September 2013

A very personal experience and a call for help

My fingers are slightly shaking as I type these words. Initially, I thought of writing this experience in a form of fiction. But integrity demands otherwise. Although it’s about something that happened to me, this story is not about me.

At the end, you will realize that it’s not only about one young man, but it’s about all of us. It’s a story about integrity and the capacity to lend a helping hand, no matter what your situation is.

My daughter called me to ask if a friend of hers and his boyfriend could stay at our house for two nights. The 20 year old young man, let’s call him Sami, has come out to his family and told them he was gay. His family threw him out of the house, and harassed him over the phone, threatening with police. Of course I immediately agreed.

When I arrived home, Sami and his boyfriend, let’s call the boyfriend Roni, were already at our apartment. Sami was in a terrible state. He couldn’t eat, and he was very anxious and scared. Throughout the evening, he was on the phone with  different people, and from what I understood, his family told him that they called the police and that the police were at his boyfriend’s house, which turned out not to be true. I tried to calm him down, telling him that he has done nothing wrong. Love isn’t a crime.

Much went on during that night, as other friends of my daughter were staying over. I didn’t ask too many questions, as I didn’t want to invade their privacy, and the details of the story didn’t seem significant to me at that moment. What was important to me was to make both of them feel safe and loved. To let them know that they didn’t do anything wrong and that they have nothing to fear. To give them warmth.

My home is very humble, and we live a simple life. But this experience taught me that even when you have very little, there is no limit to what you can offer. That night, I gave them warmth and tried to calm them down. I offered to wash their clothes – such a simple thing, which didn’t really require any extra effort on my part, since I planned to wash clothes anyway. But it was welcomed by them with a huge smile. It made them feel that someone does care about them.

That night I had trouble falling asleep. I kept thinking about Sami. I knew he was 20, that he has a job, that he needs to find an apartment, and that he is in a very sensitive state and needs all the support he can get.
The following morning I waited until after he had his coffee and breakfast and invited him outside to smoke a cigarette. I didn’t have a speech prepared. I didn’t know what I would say, but I knew I had to give him support.

I told him I knew he has to go through the painful process all the way and feel it, but at the same time also be practical about his life so that he can pull through it. That he has to surround himself with positive and supportive people. That he has to learn to accept help without any feelings of guilt.

Mid-way through our conversation, the real-estate agent called him to inform him that the deal for an apartment was final. He could move that very same day. My mind immediately zoomed in on that. I asked him if he had stuff for the apartment – sheets, blankets, stuff for the kitchen. He said he had cups and plates, but he didn’t have any sheets or pillows or towels. Without thinking twice, I told him I will see what I have and prepare a bag for him. He told me I didn’t have to do this. And I said of course I don’t have to do this. I am offering this to you because I want to, and I can offer it to you. If I couldn’t give you these things, I wouldn’t offer them. I prepared a bag with sheets, a blanket, a pillow, a towel, some kitchen towels, some rags for cleaning, two bars of soap, and a cutting board for the kitchen. I listed these items for you to see that even when you think you don’t have anything to give, you will always find some things. Even the most basic things. You will always find that you can manage with one less towel, and you probably have a stock of soap bars and you can give away two bars without worrying about it.

Before leaving, Sami thanked me and told me I was one of the most amazing people he knew. I said, no. I am not amazing. I am an ordinary person, and everyone should act like this. I didn’t do anything extraordinary. But to him, it was. Because he has a towel and soap to shower with and dry himself with. Because he has a pillow to lay his head on. He has a cutting board to cut his vegetables on. Yes, he still needs lots of stuff for the apartment, but this was a start. I didn’t want him to enter the apartment with nothing.

Before they left, I gave him my phone number and made it clear that he can call me anytime. I didn’t promise to help with everything. But I did promise that if he needed help, and it was something that I could help with, I would help.

I know this might sound trivial to some. But it is not trivial at all. What I wanted to say with this story is that everyone has the capacity to help in one way or the other. All you have to do is be aware of people’s needs, and offer whatever you can and whatever is in your capacity. And never expect the person you help to give you something in return. Because when you do a good deed, it will come back to you in another form, from another person, and in another time.

Sami is in a very difficult situation at the moment. He is only 20 years old, and already has to provide for himself financially. He didn’t plan for this, so his financial situation is difficult. He needs to buy things for the apartment. I have never asked friends to donate money for anyone. But now I am asking. I want to help Sami through this initial stage. On the left side of the blog, you will find a “donate” button, which is supposed to be for supporting my work, but which I would like to use now in order to raise money for Sami. Or contact me via email at khulud.kh@gmail.com to arrange the donation. I would very much appreciate if you can donate whatever you can afford. Thank you.


16 September 2013

Live through the storm

(c) photo by khulud khamis. Sunrise in Uganda, 2007.

Walk into the storm
do not be afraid
get wet -
all the way to
the bones.
feel the thunder beating against
your very essence.
For without a storm,
there can be no growth
no expansion
from within.
And after the storm –
the fog unblurs
and all becomes –
Tranquility reigns.

15 September 2013

“You are not a string. You are a qanun.” "انت مش وتر. انت قانون."

There comes a time in an artist’s life when she is faced with an ethical dilemma.

When creating a work of art that deals with the deepest and most intense emotions, and in order to reflect those emotions in their complete authenticity, the artist must herself know these emotions in all their depths and complexities.

The ethical dilemma arises when the artwork deals with an issue defined by society as taboo, and when, in order for the artist to feel these emotions herself, another person is involved who awakens these emotions in her.

It is not a secret that an artist breathes her artwork from her own experiences. She fuses reality with fiction until they blend and until a point is reached where she herself can no longer distinguish one from the other. It’s a magical game, most often harmless.

She is able to write about taboo issues without fear of being exposed. When asked, she always replies: “it’s all about art. It’s fiction. It’s a painting. It’s a poem. It’ a sculpture. It’s imagination in its most creative, intense mode.”

But, ultimately, as she is at the threshold to cross the boundary, when she is with that other person and an art piece begins making its way into her mind and body, she must ask herself some questions.

What is it she is after? If she wishes to reflect in her artwork the most raw, untainted form of the genuine authenticity of the emotions, then those emotions must be genuine to begin with. And if they are to be genuine, then she must abandon the idea of the artwork and immerse herself in the experience fully and wholly. Otherwise, she will fail – though only partly.

What is the ethical dilemma here? That although she did not initially intend to create an artwork from her experience, it is leading in that direction. And the moment she wishes to utilize that experience towards her creation, then she is faced with the most difficult dilemma. Does she share it with the person who awakens those emotions in her? Ethically, she must. In specific instances, it would be unethical not to. So where’s the dilemma? The moment she does, the whole process of the creation of the artwork becomes tainted and loses elements of its spontaneity and its natural beauty. Because the moment the other person becomes aware that s/he as well as her/his behavior, words, movements, are being closely watched and imprinted on the artist’s mind in all its smallest details, s/he begins to rationalize, think, and analyze his/her every movement and word. And thus the whole experience becomes tainted and distorted by this awareness.

What is the dilemma? After all, artists draw their artwork from reality, from their very own experiences and interactions with others. However, in very specific instances, when the issue they deal with entails taboo (only as defined by society, and not any immoral or unethical conduct in itself) and the whole art creation is broadly based on the process of a relationship with another person, that is when the dilemma arises.

I cannot provide an answer or a solution to this dilemma. It is a dilemma each artist must face on her own. And when she stands on the threshold, and before crossing it, she must ask herself the following questions: “Am I true to my values? Am I true to my art? Am I honest with with the other person? Am I honest with myself?” If the answer to all these questions is yes, then she knows her decision is ethical and moral.